Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We're in San Francisco!

Back next week...we're at Romance Writers of America's national conference.

Look out for us at RWA's Readers for Life Literacy Autographing, Wednesday July 30, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the San Francisco Marriott. Open to the public--more info here.

See you later!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Club

Hi all,
It’s been a busy week. My four-year-old came down with viral hives on Thursday—I had him halfway to daycare in the stroller when my daughter pointed out that he was turning red. And on Friday, I thought that I might be expecting baby no. 3. (A surprise and it turned out not to be the case.)

I also finished revisions on The Club, my sexy February release with Dell books, and made much progress on Blood Deep, my wip for Aphrodisia. Research for The Club has proved to be interesting, giving me the chance to read up a little on harems, the Kama Sutra, and India. I became completely addicted to a book that detailed how India was surveyed in the early 1800s. Enormous spiders, tigers, and disease proved to be very problematic, and ultimately the lead of the surveying team died, leaving a last journal entry that was the date and a dash—he never completed it.

The cover I’ve shown is obviously for The Club, and I’m thrilled at the elegant look Dell has given me. Plus, I’m in love with the hero’s shoulders. This will be out in February 2009. Here is a small excerpt from The Club (unedited):

"How am I going to explain to a man I’ve paid that I do not actually want him to make love to me?"

Jane asked the question of her image in the cheval mirror, but her reflection could provide no answers, obviously, that she could not think of herself.

So speaking aloud to it was quite pointless.

Groaning, Jane stalked around the brothel’s bedchamber, biting her thumbnail, and dreading the knock that was soon to come.

She had come here for Delphina, had come for answers. She’d paid a veritable fortune for the services of one of the young men employed by Mrs. Brougham, the woman who ran this Georgian house on the fringe of Mayfair, known simply as the "The Club". But since it had been a ruse, she now had to convince the man to leave without touching her.

Would he be angry?

She shivered.

Would he come to her aroused? Fear coiled, tight and cold, around her heart. She knew—though she had never experienced it with her own late husband—a man could become belligerent when he was aroused and the woman refused to play.

With Sherringham, she’d never had the courage to refuse to play. He had now been dead for thirteen months, and she no longer had to endure the nights he came to her bedroom. She no longer had to fight to find the courage to send him away, then despise herself when she couldn’t.

Jane paced, hugging her chest.

Surely a large bribe would soothe any ruffled…well, whatever might be ruffled on a randy young man. The man she’d hired had intimate relations for money, so wasn’t money the most important thing? And there were dozens of society ladies in attendance. Any reasonably attractive, healthy, and erect young man wouldn’t be frustrated for long.

Oh dear God, she thought, and she took hold of one of the bedposts for support.

Excerpt From The Club, © 2008 Sharon Page

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fan Fiction for Beginners (or for snobs)

Years back (in June 2006, actually), I wrote a piece on my own blog called The Snape Theory, finally, wherein I correctly asserted before it was revealed at the end of the series that Snape was a double agent working for good, and that it was for the love of Harry's mother Lily.

Of course, getting the Snape Theory right by the end of the fifth Harry Potter (The Order of the Phoenix) was hardly a stretch for a romance writer, it being our business to discern and delineate secret smoldering passions. Still, it got me much cred with my then-eleven-year-old niece, who could horcrux me under the table when it came to minor Harry Potter details and characters, but hadn't figured out the Snape thing yet.

And it also got me a fascinating piece of fanmail, directing me to some down-and-dirty and really rather well-written Harry Potter BDSM fan fiction -- about an intellectual relationship that (just as she becomes chronologically old enough) becomes an erotic one between Snape and Hermione.

I kinda enjoyed it, and was grateful to be pointed to it. I liked the idea of Snape wearing tight black jeans under his robes (not what Rowling intended, of course, but certainly a compassionate compensation for that heart-rending scene in the pensieve at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). And everybody who plays for the smart girl team will be gladdened by Hermione having an erotic partner who matches her in intellect. And then there's the strange point, which I have never quite understood, but which I feel to be absolutely true -- that BDSM is a kink often preferred by wonky types (I'll write more on this someday, I promise, but if anybody has any ideas I'd love to hear them now).

Anyway, I searched around in this fan fiction site, and followed links for a while... but then I went back to the book I was trying to write at the time and didn't think of fan fiction again until recently. Partly I was reminded of it when I read this quip from the supersmart lit-and-culture blogger Caleb Crain, who said he couldn't claim "to have read much fan fiction, but I feel as if I've been reading academic papers about it since I was an undergrad."

It's true -- particularly in the 90s, hip lit critics adored fan fiction, because it seemed to point to new and interesting aspects of the reading-writing continuum -- and perhaps also to point to a truth not generally acknowledged about a certain kind of reading, the adoring fans' desire to imagine characters' untold stories. We like to give them the breaks their authors never gave them (for Snape, something a whole lot better under his robes than the "skinny, pallid legs" and "graying underpants" Rowling gave him in the pensieve scene).

Sometimes, in the romance world, minor characters get their own books (sometimes this is sincere, sometimes market-driven, c'est la vie capitaliste, I guess). Sometimes, perhaps, it's the urge to continue a job well begun -- read the tough-love justice meted out on the final page of Pride and Prejudice: perhaps (I suppose this series assumes) England would be a better place if Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were solving all the unsolved crimes and dispensing rewards and punishments a la Lord and Lady Peter Wimsey. (I haven't read any of those Darcy mysteries -- have any of you? -- but I'll confess to a real adolescent wonky romantic thing for Peter Wimsey.)

And sometimes, as in the case of our own Colette Gale, the ending of The Phantom of the Opera just can't hold without the real lovers getting together. Colette, of course, writes in a "classics retold" subgenre. Retold and re-eroticized. Or perhaps (this is the fan fiction connection, I think) picking up on hints of eroticism in the original...?

Sometimes the eroticism really is there in the original -- or almost. The first time I read about fan fiction, it was (possibly like Caleb Crain) in the 90s, in the work of literary scholar Constance Penley. I think the word was slash fiction -- though I'm not sure what that meant. But in any case, Penley was gaga (her word) over stories of sex between Kirk and Spock by Star Trek fans. And whereas I don't believe that Gene Roddenberry had intended a sexual relationship, certainly there's an erotic vibe between two polar modes of macho -- Kirk the impetuous and Spock the remote, repressed, and contemplative. Which probably has something to do with the popularity of m-m couplings today (crumpet strumpets who mine this vein, please comment!)

Which brings me to the real reason I'm writing about fan fiction, because what I'm playing with right now is my own retelling of a classic novel -- to tell the "real" story that it's my pleasure to propose that the author was too proper to reveal. Perhaps like Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead -- well, that's a literary and hifalutin example. Or perhaps more like fan fiction. Where are the boundaries?

Boundaries or not, right now for me it's a journey and a challenge. The sex parts are pure pleasure. Righting injustices that I perceive in the original is a delight. Knowing how much to reveal about the "original," ostensible plot is a headache -- because some readers will have read the original and others will not have. I want it to work for everybody.

And I also want to know what you think about this farrago of partially digested ideas. I know that at least one of the crumpets (Celia) has written fan fiction. And that others of you have written m-m erotica and classics retold stories. Readers, what do you think? Writers, what have been your experiences?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ten things

that are almost as good as sex:

1. A Cadbury's flake stuck in a vanilla cone (soft English ice cream).

2. The scent of rain when it first falls on dry ground

3. Favorite words: island, farthingale, celestial, wondrous, celandine, fathom, jewel, darkness, velvet, lustre, piglet, ragged, pagoda, marmoset, sandalwood, counterpoint, cantilever, sultry, orange, wilderness

4. That wonderful feeling of anticipation you get when you open a book for the first time by a favorite writer

5. Meeting an old friend after years apart and finding that you pick up where you left off with no awkwardness

6. Eating a mango

7. Werner Herzog's production of Tannhauser

8. Ingmar Bergman's movie of The Magic Flute

9. Starting a new book and knowing anything can happen, but you're not yet sure what

10. Writing the last page of a book and realizing you're going to miss your characters

What are yours?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Writing Again

About a month ago, I talked about how I’d gotten back into the writing groove and had written 30 pages on vacation!

Well, they were the last pages I wrote for a while.


I’ve turned over a new leaf (yet again) and this month I’ve finished and turned in a novella, and am working on finishing a really fun proposal. I’ve given myself until the end of next week to write 30 pages and thus complete a first draft of the proposal. Which meant 2.5 pages a day. A cakewalk for me when I was under contract and writing 5 to 6 pages a day in order to meet the deadline.

As of today (Friday), well, I’m 3.5 pages behind my goal. But that’s okay. I know what I want to write next and I’m rather looking forward to it. There was supposed to be writing time tonight, but the hubby got good news at work and so we went out to a swanky restaurant to celebrate.

Yep, that kind of real good news.

So the writing is going well again, and I’m having fun doing so.

By the way, my husband is going to London. And no, I’m not going. What should he bring back for me?

Besides Cadbury’s, and possibly tea.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Hidden Stuff

This month I’m doing a cross contest with fellow Aphrodisia author Elizabeth Amber, who writes the Lords of Satyr series—sexy historical paranormal.

Check the contest page at my site http://www.sharonpage.com/contest.htm for a chance to win a copy of Elizabeth’s latest book, LYON, THE LORDS OF SATYR.
For a chance to win my latest, BLACK SILK, check out Elizabeth’s newsletter group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ElizabethAmber

I’m editing my first Bantam/Dell book, THE CLUB, right now, which has been making me think about the things we take out of stories, or "Outtakes".

Every writer has them. Some are even brave enough to post them on their websites. On her site, author Kelley St. John has a page called The Cutting Room floor, where she has posted deleted scenes and extra material. I love the idea—I love to see all the "behind the scenes" process that goes into creating a book. I also love to watch the deleted scenes on DVD—I find it really helps me think about storytelling to try to understand why the scene was removed, and how the movie is stronger because of it.

When I wrote the synopsis for Sin, I thought that it would be a great idea to have my artist heroine Venetia draw a portrait of Marcus, the hero. And so I wrote the scene. But through later drafts I realized the scene didn’t advance the plot, and even though I loved the idea and the scene made me smile, I had to let it go.

It’s always tough to make that decision to cut paragraphs or even an entire scene. I can never force myself to do that right after the first draft. It’s usually when I reach the third draft that I am cold-hearted enough to slash where needed!

Here’s a peek at a scene that didn’t make it into the final, published version of Sin. But I loved the scene, so if you’ve read Black Silk, some of this may seem familiar…

Fully clothed and he’d never felt more naked in his life. Marcus shifted his hip against his desk. What was she staring at? Why had he struck this pose where he was gazing off into the distance at not at her?

What part of him was she looking at now?

His shoulders? His chest? His thighs? Or worse, was she painting his groin, which of course at some point she would have to do. He couldn’t ask her to leave a blank unpainted hole where his hips and crotch should be, but his erection was tenting his breeches. Thankfully he’d worn black, so the bulge wouldn’t be so blasted obvious, but if he stood here knowing she was scrutinizing his family jewels to record them for posterity, he might just ravish her on the spot.
Hell and perdition, all he’d done was kiss the woman and now he couldn’t put her from his mind. He’d lost a thousand bloody pounds at the tables today.

How many women had he kissed? How many women had he made love to? He couldn’t remember the last, but he couldn’t seem to stop thinking about Venetia Hamilton.
Expecting an admonishment, he turned his head just a bit and glanced at her.

She wasn’t looking at him. Good lord, she was sucking on the end of her paintbrush. Her soft red lips pursued around the painted wood shaft and she studied her picture with a frown. Drenched in candlelight, her hair was a mass of flame. She was adorable as her amber brows drew together in concentration.

"No, indeed, that shoulder is not broad enough," she muttered in a breathy voice. Speaking to herself, she had a soft, kittenish purr. "Definitely his shoulders are broader…straighter…hips lean and narrow…decidedly trim and I haven’t quite caught the lovely line where they…ooh."

The soft little sigh at the end was almost his undoing. Blast, he should have posed behind his desk. Was it too late to pull a chair in front?

He was as hard as a pistol and she must be able to see it. He knew she was studying his hips. Which meant she would be working around to the front. Was she assessing him for length and girth? Did he make a good showing compared to her fantasies?

"Could we take a break?" His voice broke the stillness like a cannonball exploding.

She pulled her brush from between her lips and he fancied he saw the tip glistening. The tip of her tongue dabbed the very end, thoughtfully. He gripped the bullnose edge of his desk, tight enough to pop a seam of his gloves.

"You’ve not been posing for more than half and hour, my lord."

"I’m stiff—" God, had he just said that?

"But it will take weeks to complete the work if we stop every time you are…stiff."

For readers and writers, do you enjoy the "Behind the Scenes" sections where authors reveal the secrets behind the book?

Excerpt ©Sharon Page

Monday, July 7, 2008

Home Economics: Love, Sex, and the Marriage Ending

I've been thinking out loud over at my own personal blog, about a new project I'm playing with, which I hope will be (as I say there):

[...a] thoughtful, highly literate and very smutty piece of writing, with[...] no monogamous ending; no ultimate sorting [of characters into happy coupledom]; no cozy, well-protected final retreat back behind the gates of Pemberley. And yet (I hope) no loose ends either[.... A] way of bringing together all the stuff I’ve been meditating on during my loopy journey from erotica to romance and now, perhaps, back.

A collaboration, as I see it, between Pam Rosenthal and Molly Weatherfield target="_blank" -- an exploration of mean(ing)s and end(ing)s, where we get to play close to the edge of the provocative margin between romantic and (if we must call it that) erotic (with a wink and a nod, here, to Celia May Hart and her funny recent post at this blog).

Is my collaborative idea saleable? I have no idea. I'm not far enough into it yet, and I'm not even going to try to shop it around to publishers until I know more about the shape it will take. So I'd be grateful for your comments about the distinctions between romance and that other thing -- and what role ultimate monogamy and the marriage ending plays in all of this.

And if you're interested in the topic, you might also want to go over to Tracy Grant's blog post about the popularity of courtesan themes in recent romance novels, which I think is related to this issue. What does the widespread recent interest in erotically experienced heroines tell us? Does it widen romance fiction's purview or does it ultimately domesticate the question of erotic experience? Also and always germane is anything our own Jane Lockwood has had to say on erotic pairings and happy endings (or not) in in Forbidden Shores. (What's a good post you did on this, Jane, from the vast archives of your web-hopping?)

Other examples from the huge mess o' online discussion would be appreciated as well... Links to other readers' and writers' cherished beliefs, prejudices, and finely (or even not-so-finely) drawn distinctions are all good. Monica McCarty's opinionated post about Romance and the One True Love a few months ago at the Fog City Diva blog is a great example of taking a position (not my position, but an enduring one), and stating it with impressive clarity.

Let me know what you think, if you've got a mind to.

And meanwhile, here are some closer-to-home messages from the material world.
  • Sending my thanks first of all to Lacy, whose post on dildos a while back has evidently been inspiring some action in my back brain, to surface in the scene I'm writing right now in the new collaborative project (I'm stealing one of her fabulous illustrations, but there are more where that came from).
  • And adding an update from my own real life and times. Because the little anniversary present my husband bought me at Good Vibrations last autumn (when I read there with Lacy, Eden Bradley, and Lillian Feisty) turned out to be of shoddy workmanship. No, I'm not going to tell you what he bought me, but I will say that -- for my birthday this month -- he replaced the shoddy original with a terrific little number from the Xandria Collection online. And that at least from our experience, Xandria seems like a pretty excellent site. Have you used it? Anybody else have some consumer info to share?
  • And... oh, this old illustration? Well, some of you may know a certain sex toy scene from Safe Word. And some of you may not. I may post the scene on my website when I have time for that, but it's not there now, so you just may have to employ some lateral thinking to guess (though I couldn't have). I will tell you that it does work: unlike some of the more farouche stuff in my erotic books, I tried this one at home -- and so did a happy reader. It's subtle, though. You might just have to read my Molly Weatherfield books...

Happy consuming, everyone (the inner nerd insists that I tell you that the word "economics" comes from the Greek for "household"). And happy theorizing . And do tell me what you think about the erotics (or not) of the marriage ending.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I find when I write my first draft my heroes and heroines all have explanations that are similar… usually ones that I say often, smiles… By the time I finish writing a story I know my heroes and heroines so much better and they have developed their own individuality. I can then give them individual sayings that fit them well.

I have to admit though, finding intensifiers that fit historically can be fun. Besides the known ones of the time period, some listed below, I have the most fun with my heroines. Some of them have made up their own like “Oh poppydust!” and such. Having them use them and get all flustered is fun and well finding ones to use during the act can be an experience!

Some known Intensifiers around during the Regency are: (Of course there are many more)
Oh Monstrous!
I dare say!
My Stars!
Take that!
Tally Ho!
That’s the dandy!
What the Devil!
What the Duce!
Dash it!
Blow my dickey!
Dang my buttons!
Good Gracious! (but not Goodness Gracious)
Hang! As in I’ll be hanged if it is not true!
Huge Grin. Even reading some of them puts a smile on my face.

What are some of your favorite Expletives/Intensifiers?